Founders Angela and Chloe literally tripped their way through the fashion waste problem
as they worked in New York City's Garment District at several different clothing brands that manufactured in the area. Angela comes from a fashion design background while Chloe has worked with makers and brands all over the world- even creating her own small shirting business. The duo met getting their Masters degrees at Parsons School of Design and joined forces to tackle a problem that had bothered both of them for years: pre-consumer textile waste.
Knowing firsthand that the factory throws away up to 30% of the fabric in pieces that are small or oddly shaped when cutting a garment, they knew there must be a responsible way to handle the scrap material. It is often too difficult or time consuming for designers and factories to figure out how to use the leftover 30% of fabric, so it is simply thrown into the garbage and hauled to the landfills. This textile waste is clean and consolidated, making it far easier to collect than individual consumer's unwanted clothing. Manufacturers often told Angela and Chloe that they would prefer to recycle the fabric but don’t have the resources to coordinate themselves. If Threadcycle can provide an easy collection for factories to remove the textile waste for them, the fashion industry and NYC community will benefit greatly. Recycling textiles saves landfill space, reduces greenhouse gases, and reduces the heavy burden on the earth to produce an ever-increasing amount of new material yearly.
Almost the entirety of effort to increase textile recycling is directed at post-consumer goods.
Individual community members are asked by the city and nonprofit organizations to donate or recycle garments and home textiles that they no longer need at food markets and collection bins installed within large apartment and community buildings. Despite this effort, the textile waste we are producing as a city is growing, not reducing. Additionally, none of these options will accept fabric scraps or large textile cuttings generated by businesses.
New York City enacted a law in 1992 that requires commercial enterprises to recycle. This requirement includes “separation from the waste stream” of textile waste for any business in which textile waste makes up over 10% of the total waste. This apparently unenforced regulation specifies a $100 fine for the first offense, $200 for the second, and $400 for the third offense. Without a fee-free collection service, these penalties are far less than would be a cost for separate pick-up and hauling. The cost of enforcing the regulation would also no doubt exceed these penalty fees. However the cost to our environment and community when we throw textiles away is far more than the charged fees.
New York City’s overall rate of recycling is about 25%. This rate is significantly lower than other major US metropolitan areas like San Francisco which recycles 80% of their waste and Los Angeles with 76.4% captured. New York City’s waste reduction proposal, called OneNYC, promises to reduce waste disposal to ZERO waste sent to landfills by 2030. Beyond increasing the number of collection bins, the city advises no other plans to increase the rate of individual consumer textile recycling and reduce the 6% of our landfills that textiles currently fill. Again, there are no options for textile cuttings from businesses being developed by the city Sanitation Department or any other city organization.
In our research, we have found that there are several collectors targeting post-consumer textiles (clothing and textiles used by individual people) and almost none that will accept textile scraps and lengths of all kinds. There is a major opportunity in the city for a collector to pick up textile waste from manufacturers, and it is this opportunity that Threadcycle is building its business upon.
Coming from design and maker backgrounds, Angela and Chloe started by thinking of what they could use pre-consumer textile scraps collected from their manufacturers for, and the possibilities seemed endless.
Beginning by hosting workshops and testing products made themselves, there was a lot of fun and inspiration to be had. Products made include some of the items now sold in the webshop. However, they knew no amount of product was going to use all of the fabric scraps that were available to them, and even more important, products were not providing a circular solution to the problem. Eventually, the beautiful new bags or rugs would not be needed or wanted and could end up in the same landfills the scraps would normally go to.
After years of research, they found a method to target the large quantities of material they needed to divert from landfills. Check out the "Recycling" section of the site to learn more about the magic of our method!